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An American Crime (2007)

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The true story of suburban housewife Gertrude Baniszewski, who kept a teenage girl locked in the basement of her Indiana home during the 1960s.

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4,503 ( 311)
Nominated for 1 Golden Globe. Another 2 nominations. See more awards »

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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
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Paula Baniszewski
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Shirley Baniszewski (as Hannah Leigh Dworkin)
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Reverend Bill Collier
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Marie Baniszewski
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Hope Orbach
Patricia Place ...
Mrs. Doyle
Calvin Keet ...
Mr. Doyle
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Storyline

Based on a true story that shocked the nation in 1965, the film recounts one of the most shocking crimes ever committed against a single victim. Sylvia and Jennie Fae Likens, the two daughters of traveling carnival workers are left for an extended stay at the Indianapolis home of single mother Gertrude Baniszewski and her six children. Times are tough, and Gertrude's financial needs cause her to make this arrangement before realizing how the burden will push her unstable nature to a breaking point. What transpires in the next three months is both riveting and horrific. Written by alfiehitchie

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis

Taglines:

The true story of a child's punishment that became a woman's crime. See more »

Genres:

Biography | Crime | Drama

Motion Picture Rating (MPAA)

Rated R for strong and disturbing depiction of child abuse and torture | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

 »
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Details

Country:

Language:

Release Date:

7 December 2007 (Sweden)  »

Also Known As:

The Basement  »

Filming Locations:


Box Office

Budget:

$2,000,000 (estimated)
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Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Color:

Aspect Ratio:

2.35 : 1
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Did You Know?

Trivia

The film is based largely on actual court transcripts from the case. See more »

Goofs

During the big "rescue" scene Ricky and Sylvia flee from Gertie in a 67-68 model Ford Mustang, a blatant error considering the movie is set in 1965. See more »

Quotes

Sylvia Likens: She sacrificed me to protect her children, and she sacrificed her children to protect herself.
See more »

Crazy Credits

The final credit states "Sylvia Likens, 1949-1965". See more »

Connections

Referenced in The 66th Annual Golden Globe Awards (2009) See more »

Soundtracks

Tell the World About This
Written by Mahalia Jackson
Performed by Mahalia Jackson
Courtesy of Columbia Records
By Arrangement with Sony BMG Music Entertainment
See more »

Frequently Asked Questions

See more (Spoiler Alert!) »

User Reviews

 
Wallowing Down With the Sickness
11 May 2008 | by (United States) – See all my reviews

What a tragedy that I will never have an opportunity to see this film in a theatre. The cast alone that includes the currently very popular Ellen Page should have merited something better than Saturday night Showtime.

Because of this, the impact will be blunted, however even in its limited presentation, the film was stunning and will easily end up among my favorites for the year. The quiet contemplation of the mood and the selection of a hideous story from post-Beaver Cleaver trivial innocence, pre-late 1960s tumult creates a moment so far outside our expectations of this nonsense daily on 24/7 news channels that its impact nails you full frontal.

I particularly like some of the discussions of this film that complain that it was not graphic enough and because of this, didn't hit people 'in the gut.' This alone warrants a short meditation.

To paraphrase one of the best commentaries I've read on this thing, there is an inner sadist in all of us. America's history of violence and tolerance of violence just gives license to bring it out more often and intensely. And despite our strong sense of individuality and our braggadocio about freedom, we have this very strange conformist streak. The confluence of these two conflicted tendencies can lead to bad places.

This film meditates subtly and, yes, beautifully on all of this. By eschewing potential excesses that some complaining viewers apparently desired, the story puts us in a disturbing place where we might not suspend disbelief and acknowledge the raw emotions as something potentially alive within.

I believe it is this troubling recognition of possibility that branded this film in various ways keeping it from ever being seen in a theatre. By exposing it first on pay TV, the unwashed masses might easily mistake it for a poorly done version of sensational MSNBC serial killer crap. Stuff like this is pleasurable to many because it lets them wallow 'down with the sickness' while pretending they are above it.

There is a wonderful moment in the story when the almost involuntarily sadistic mother utters 'there are things in life we have to do whether we like them or not.' I can't help but think this was borrowed from the sadistic father figure in the original 'Texas Chainsaw Massacre,' a film that many wanted this to be so as to give them some form of absolution from their own demons 'An American Crime' exposes.


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